Utility customers facing a disconnection or needing to restore service this winter have a chance to remain connected, thanks to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's annual Winter Reconnect Order.
Michele Lucas, community services director for HARCATUS Tri-County Community Action Organization, says any customer regardless of income may have service restored or avoid a shutoff by making a one-time payment of 175-dollars. She says customers must also enroll in a payment plan to catch up on any past-due bills.
Lucas: We're establishing a routine of responsibility with our utility customers that have maybe fallen into this through no fault of their own. Recently layoffs, and really been faced with no choices.
Lucas says the payment plans are set up based on monthly income, and there's been an increase over the past few years in those who are able to pay on time and in full.
Lucas: We have seen people with arrearages on their gas bills or electric bills as high as $5,000, in a two year period get that amount completely wiped out.
Any residential utility customer may use the one-time order between now and April 15th. Other programs are available to help low-income customers stay connected, including the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus, and budget billing offered by the utilities. More information is available at the commission's website: puco-dot-ohio-dot-gov.